Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Gravity's War

Today is the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, which a day later formally brought the US into World War II.

It's made me realize that I've been immersed in that period for several months now.  Most recently I've been reading Thomas Pynchon's huge novel, Gravity's Rainbow, which is set in 1945 before and after the European war ends, while I've been going through the BBC Foyle's War series, set in a coastal town in England throughout the war.  Each episode includes one or two features of the homefront part of the war, usually lost to the usual histories, along with its murder mysteries.

Neither of these wallows in nostalgia, though they have plenty of the texture of those times, both attractive and not.  They offer a related but now different counter-environment to today's thundering chaos.  There is some comfort in finding applicable patterns but only relatively, since those patterns are generally evil.

Gravity's Rainbow posits a global capitalist conspiracy of sorts, that had corporate powers profiting and cooperating on both sides during the war, and ready to dominate the future, with everybody else just hapless instruments of their madness.  But of course that's only part of what it's about, and certainly of what's in it.

Foyle's War demonstrates that, contrary to the propaganda that survives as history, there was plenty of xenophobia, mixed loyalties, controversy, complacency and criminal exploitation as well as unknown heroism in this "last good war" fought by "the greatest generation."  Also a lot of problems for returning soldiers, including what we call PTSD, that are associated mostly with more recent wars.

World War II was an immense disaster for the world--too large for us to comprehend.  People did rise to the occasion, and there was a widespread idealism, both in the UK and the US, that the end of the war would necessarily elevate the "common people" to more power over their lives.

And that the racial and national prejudices broken by fighting together (to some extent) would functionally end those prejudices in the future.  (Despite the prejudices encouraged against enemy nationalities.)  So there is that.  I've written more about it here. And here. And here.  Well, there's a World War II label for that and more.  And specific notes about Pearl Harbor here.

No comments: